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Covering the A to Z of energy in two days This week’s Energy Event was abuzz with activity. A packed schedule of events, workshops and presentations kept visitors informed and […]

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By Geoff Curran

Covering the A to Z of energy in two days

This week’s Energy Event was abuzz with activity. A packed schedule of events, workshops and presentations kept visitors informed and entertained. As you might expect, all things energy-related were on the agenda – there aren’t many places you can go from AMR to gauging the political Zeitgeist in just two days!

Certainly, in the panel debate I participated in to look at how suppliers can meet the future needs of business consumers, we covered a lot of ground. Chairman Paul Mason, economics editor of the BBC’s Newsnight, kicked off with questions about fracking, asking our views on the likely impact of domestic shale gas extraction on UK energy prices and supply security. The consensus was it’s too soon to tell, although we agreed it’s unlikely the UK will experience the same level of benefits seen in the US. But Paul was keen to note that the government’s interest goes beyond the potential security of supply benefits that a homegrown source of energy could provide. If cheaper energy prices could drive the same ‘reshoring’ of companies that the US has experienced, then the economic benefits for the UK would be far broader reaching.

No debate on energy could ignore the Energy Bill and Electricity Market Reform. Our hope is, of course, that it will deliver the investment the UK badly needs in generation infrastructure to deliver secure, affordable and low-carbon energy for the future. But as we all agreed, the devil is in the detail – and exactly how some of the key measures of EMR will work in practice is still be to finalised. As far as businesses are concerned, being able to plan and budget for future costs is crucial. All the debate panelists were on the same page in seeking greater predictability and reducing uncertainty for our customers.

We then talked about the importance of increasing trust in suppliers among energy consumers and the steps the industry needs to take to address poor public perception. Listening to customers and keeping things simple were common themes. But by putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, our aim at npower is to also provide bespoke solutions that fit the needs of different consumers. Only by treating customers as individuals can we create strong relationships that produce the best outcomes.

The role of energy consultants was also discussed, but my colleague Chris Billing will be sharing some interesting insight on this area, so watch out for his forthcoming guest blog in the next few weeks.

On the key question of whether the UK’s energy policy will stop the lights going out, the panel all agreed future blackouts are unlikely – although clearly much work has to be done to ensure our energy sector remains fit for purpose.

Energy efficiency and reducing waste are a key part of the picture, and in a later address, Lord Robert Winston shared his thoughts on the behavioural changes necessary to make this happen. In a nutshell, he believes financial management and incentives don’t really work – and that our biggest hope is targeting the under tens. Any older, and our brains are less receptive to embedding new types of behaviour, apparently.

Controlling costs is also key, and obviously a major concern, if the volume of participants at our EMR Explained (And What You Can Do About It) workshop was anything to go by. My colleague Magali Hodgson also took to the podium to share her years of trading experience, providing some useful pointers for remaining within budget in a flexible energy purchasing contract.

So all in all, a busy and enlightening couple of days. If you weren’t able to join us and you’d like more information on anything I’ve mentioned, then do please get in touch via [email protected].

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